SFFF Day 6 – Into the Unknown

The final day of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival opened with Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century (2019), a fictionalized portrait of Canada’s weirdest, longest-serving, and middlest-of-the-road Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. The film side-steps Mackenzie King’s secret spiritualism and instead creates a broader, stranger fantasy of Canada at the dawn of a new era. Rankin’s prerecorded introduction for the film described it as “nightmarishly Canadian” and his words were apt. The Twentieth Century is an Eraserhead/Isle of Dogs-esque imagining of Canadian history and culture, one obsessed with maple walnut ice cream, the scent of fresh timber, passive-aggressive manners, Indian leg wrestling, and medicinal “puffin cream.” Inspiration was taken from the Prime Minister to-be’s personal diary and Rankin connected with Mackenzie King’s tendencies toward vanity, repression, self-righteousness, and self-pity. Played by Dan Beirne with petulant primness, Mackenzie King struggles to achieve his maternally prophesied political and romantic aims (and sublimate his dominating shoe fetish), and the film traces his misadventures through the brutalist interiors of Rideau Hall, the frozen utopia of Quebec, a sunny and freshly logged, new age Vancouver, and a baseless and fetid Winnipeg.

A former Winnipegger himself, Rankin carries on the prairie post-modernism of Guy Maddin and John Paizs, and like his predecessors, Rankin finds ways to make a hard earned dime look like an eccentrically spent dollar (or loonie). Hand-painted and animated in sections by Rankin himself and utilizing a palette that evokes the colours of Canadian banknotes, The Twentieth Century’s stunning production design recalls earlier film eras with its intertitle chapter cards while it also embraces the fresh Canadianness established in the aesthetics of Group of Seven painters like Lawren Harris and York Wilson and the modernist designs of Expo ’67. Rankin even loads his historical subject with a gleeful perversity and a shameless phallocentricism that would do Ken Russell proud – watch out for that ejaculating cactus and that narwhal horn! The Twentieth Century is an acid trip-take on peace, order, and good government and it is staunchly glorious.

Oscilloscope Laboratories has picked up the rights to Rankin’s brilliant film and we can only hope that its eventual hard media release will not only include The Twentieth Century but also many (if not all) of Rankin’s short films including Negativipeg (2010), the most Winnipeg-ish thing I’ve ever seen committed to film.

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SFFF Day 2 Report – Frenemies

The second day of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival leaned into bad behaviour, mostly by men, mostly among (supposed) friends. The program started light with Brent Hodge’s Who Let The Dogs Out (2019), an MMC! favourite of this year’s Calgary Underground Film Festival. Hodge, Alberta-born and in attendance at the SFFF, has found a niche with his self-described “comedy documentaries” like Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary (2018), I Am Chris Farley (2015), and A Brony Tale (2014), and Who Let The Dogs Out further confirms Hodge’s mastery of the subgenre. Devoted to the Baha Men’s 2000 hit “Who Let The Dogs Out,” its myriad authorship claims, and its various legal battles among friends and stranger alike, Hodge distills Ben Sisto’s eight-year exploration and three-hour lecture on the track into a tight, enthralling 62-minute doc. Sisto acts as the song’s scruffy biographer, travelling the world’s music studios, courtrooms, and high schools to trace the origin of the song’s ubiquitous catchphrase. This BOSUD (a “biopic of someone undeserving,” to use Dennis Bingham’s terminology) is a definite crowd-pleaser, being far more fascinating that its novelty subject matter should allow for. The SFFF was the last festival stop for Who Let The Dogs Out as it now transitions to cable and streaming platforms. Look for it on Crave in Canada!

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Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2008)

SHUT UP OR DIE!

Shock jock Grant Mazzy has been kicked off the airwaves and now works the only job he can get as the host of CLSY’s early morning radio show broadcast from the basement of a church in the small Canadian town of Pontypool. What begins as another mundane day of school bus cancellations quickly turns deadly when bizarre reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and committing brutal acts of violence. Before long, Mazzy and CLSY’s small staff find themselves trapped in the station and struggling with the reality of a deadly virus being spread through language. Does Mazzy stay on the air in hopes of informing the public and saving himself or is he providing the virus with its ultimate leap over the airwaves and into the world?

Based on Tony Burgess’ 1995 novel Pontypool Changes Everything and inspired by Orson Welles’s 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, Pontypool blends George Romero and David Cronenberg with Noam Chomsky and Richard Dawkins and creates a zombie apocalypse unlike any other.

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Feature-length audio commentary with director Bruce McDonald and writer Tony Burgess
  • Original radio drama with optional slideshow of on-set photos taken by Caitlin Cronenberg
  • A New Arrangement for Life, a new interview with McDonald and Burgess looking back on Pontypool
  • Johnny Deadeyes and Lisa the Killer, a new interview with actors Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle
  • Infected Words, a new video appreciation by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • Siege Mentality, horror film scholars Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West on the Canadianness of Pontypool
  • Watching Night of the Living Dead, Canadian artist Dave Dyment’s 2018 reproduction of George Romero’s 1968 horror classic using clips taken from film and television that include footage from Night of the Living Dead
  • Two short films by Britt Randle: Dada Dum (2007) and Eve (2001)
  • Original theatrical teaser and trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Tim Robey

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Josie and the Pussycats (Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, 2001)

Designed for the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favorites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving these movies the love and attention they deserve.

LONG TAILS AND EARS FOR HATS!

Re-discover the Pussycats, Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook), Melody (Tara Reid), and Val (Rosario Dawson), three small-town musicians with big dreams but little future! The chance of a lifetime arrives out of the blue when Wyatt (Alan Cumming) of MegaRecords signs them to an awesome recording contract without even hearing them play. Suddenly, Josie and the Pussycats are living life in the fast lane with sold-out concerts, chartered jets, a number one single, and global stardom. Their good fortune comes at price however and the Pussycats soon discover that they’re being used by their record label’s maniacal CEO Fiona (Parker Posey) to control the youth of America. Featuring a hit soundtrack of pop-punk songs and purr-fectly hilarious performances, Josie and the Pussycats is a modern cult classic about friendship, rock music, and capitalist conspiracies.

Special Features:

  • NEW HD Film Transfer
  • NEW “Back To Riverdale” With Directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont and Stars Rachael Lee Cook, Rosario Dawson, and Tara Reid
  • NEW “Here and Meow” With Singer Kay Hanley
  • NEW “In Through The Backdoor” With Actors Seth Green, Donald Faison, and Breckin Meyer
  • Audio Commentary With Directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont and Producer Marc Platt
  • Backstage Pass
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Josie and the Pussycats “3 Small Words” Music Video
  • Dujour “Backdoor Lover” and “Dujour Around The World” Music Videos
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Notes

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Night of the Juggler (Robert Butler, 1980)

HE’LL TEAR APART A CITY TO SAVE HIS DAUGHTER

When a vicious psychopath mistakes the daughter of tough ex-cop Sean Boyd (James Brolin) for the daughter of a wealthy developer and kidnaps her for ransom, Boyd goes on a city-wide rampage to get her back. Fighting his way through 42nd Street porn palaces and Bronx gang territories, facing street thugs and crooked cops, Boyd’s unrelenting search through the urban decay of New York City is a pulse-pounding, action-thriller in the gritty spirit of Dog Day Afternoon and Taxi Driver.

Based on the novel by William P. McGivern (who wrote the original serial for The Big Heat) and featuring wild performances by Cliff Gorman, Dan Hedaya, Sharon Mitchell, and Mandy Patinkin, Night of the Juggler is a stunningly grimy portrait of the Big Apple at its most fetid and a relentless thrill-ride of brawls, car crashes, dog attacks, and knife-fights!

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Held Hostage, new interview with actress Abby Bluestone
  • Along for the Ride, new interview with actress Julie Carmen
  • At the Peep Show, new interview with actress Sharon Mitchell
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by cult cinema critic Steven Puchalski

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Piercing (Nicolas Pesce, 2018) – Ithaca Fantastik 2018

A MODERN SCREWBALL GIALLO

Family man Reed (Christopher Abbott) is going on a business trip but in lieu of a suitcase filled with clothes, he’s packed a toothbrush, a murder kit, and a plan to kill a prostitute so can rid himself of his homicidal impulses and continue to be a good husband and father. That call girl, an alluring but unusual woman named Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), is more than he bargained for and the balance of control over their fraught meeting begins to sway back and forth between the two. Before the night is over, a feverish nightmare unfolds, and Reed and Jackie seal their strange bond in blood.

Based on the critically acclaimed cult novel by Ryu Murakami (Audition), director Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother) blends psychological horror with screwball comedy and sets it against an iconic giallo score, resulting in a sly take on the fantasy of escape and the hazards of modern romance.

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Nicolas Pesce
  • Making-of documentary
  • Piercing Murakami: Japanese film scholar Tom Mes on the source novel
  • Knowing the Score: Giallo music expert Jon Dobyns on the music of Piercing
  • According to Plan: New interviews with actors Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, and Laia Costa
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Wendy Ide Continue reading